Creating conversation in class

Chris Sion (Delta Publishing: Professional Perspectives, 2001)
ISBN 978-095-330-988-7
This publication is part of a series of practical methodology books aimed at providing practitioners with new ideas for use in the ELT classroom. It contains more than 100 ideas and activities organised into six sections, all geared towards stimulating ‘student-centred interaction’. They are designed as stand-alone lesson-long activities or speaking components in a wider lesson. I could easily see how they could be used as a launch pad to further discussions and embedded grammar/vocabulary work.

Some of the ideas were a twist on familiar ones. Most potentially successful activities were the ones which would draw on and draw out the learners’ own life experiences (there is a section entitled ‘Focusing on the Family’). I particularly liked the five Learner Training sections slotted in at the end of each chapter. We all know how hard it can be to get students to develop study skills, identify goals and appraise learning, and I felt that some of these activities could help achieve these ends. Furthermore, I felt that some of these could be particularly useful in fostering an atmosphere of sharing and mutual encouragement in the classroom, especially when used in conjunction with some of the personal experience exercises.

I did find some of the activity ideas quite abstract and felt it would be difficult to inspire a group of discussion-reluctant learners with them. However, perhaps a group of academic or EFL learners might be more comfortable with the more existential and philosophical tasks, rather than the learners in my community ESOL context.

It’s worth saying that I had already purchased one other publication in this series (The Resourceful English Teacher, Chandler and Stone, 1999). I have used it to good effect and would definitely enjoy experimenting with this one when I return to teaching after my current career break.
Christine Blair-Murray
ESOL Group Tutor, Fife Council
(February 2012)